Friday, September 5, 2008

Vent: Harbin's Hot Pool ~ Just-Right-Too-Hot

When entering the Harbin hot pool for the first time, one can barely do so. It's very hot (about 113 degrees fahrenheit / 60 degrees celsius) and sometimes it takes people a number of minutes to immerse themselves. Many people decide not to go in, for a while, and back out up the stairs, and sit down.

But when you're familiar with the temperature, going in gets relatively easy, and can even elicit bliss for me, with some regularity, - and the moving between hot pool and cold plunge can accentuate this emotional experience, neurophysiologically.

Hot Pool Room Art

In the hot pool room is a beautiful whale-with-ocean sculpture, and the hot water flows out of this whale's mouth. The railing, around the pool and including the banisters along the stairways, is made by the same sculptor, who also made the magnificent Dragon Gate casting near Harbin's office. The rail's fluid lines, sturdiness, artistry, and symbols both support people, allowing them to walk on both sets of steps securely, as well as swing freely into and out of the pools, and contribute richly to the aesthetic quality of being there. The symbols on this metal casting include a dinosaur egg with emerging dinosaur, a serpent eating an apple, a frog, clasped hands with a wing on one of them, a Native American peace pipe, a Buffalo head, a skinks or a local lizard-like reptile, a dolphin, a condor's head, a slightly sleepy and bemused dragon, a heart, two circles, and some other symbols. You would touch the dolphin on the banister if you were walking up the far steps, and you might hold onto the condor head walking up the steps closer to the two doors on the side of the room through which most people enter and exit. The railing was made in the mid-1990s. Attached to the rail on the side of the room with two doors is a black slab of a bench. Sometimes one's blood pressure changes (?) when leaving the pools, and setting on this bench is important and useful. These physiological changes are biological processes I'd like to learn more about.

There are 2 windows and 3 doorways in this lovely, 'atmospheric' room. In front of the upper window above the whale is the bust of a woman with flowing hair, into which fresh flowers are placed regularly. I enjoy looking at them when I enter the hot water as they focus my attention on lovely shapes and colors. Under this are some candle holders with lit candles at night. And in the whale sculpture are two candle holders, as well. At the quieter, farther side of the room from which people come in, are two benches, and a door out to the main warm pool walkway. Relatively few people use these benches in my experience. Behind the benches is a window that looks out on some tree trunks and hillside, which sometimes can appear naturally illuminated quite remarkably. Above the benches in the left hand ceiling corner is a metal candle holder/lamp that looks a little like a samovar. The colors in the mural on the wall opposite the whale remind me of being on the ocean with its clouds, blues and grays, - specifically of Buzzard's Bay near New Bedford, Massachusetts, curiously. Waves crest along the bottom of this mural and the painting can be integral to being in the hot pool. I once saw an artist, up to her shins in the hot water, touching it up. I sometimes let the image and its shades bring my imagination to releasing and watery places. The light in the hot pool room in pleasantly shaded, and very varied during the course of the day, although I see it as blue-green much of the time. The roof of the hot pool room is simple wood which has weatherd. Above the wall painting are some colored curvy glass pieces of many colors. Art is alive at Harbin, and sometimes I think of all of Harbin as a kind of live canvas.

Even though Harbin is a kind of a liminal - a betwixt and between retreat center - place, where communitas arises quite readily, Harbin also produces its own structure, - rules and social ordering, etc. So, for example, the sign in the hot pool says "Silence" and people observe this. (But Harbin did ask me to play my bagpipes in the pool area on Easter in 2005, including walking through the pool area, creating a kind of liminality within generally liminal space. So Harbin is flexible).

The cold plunge is just above the hot pool, and moving between the two pools, while releasing and relaxing, can be very enjoyable, integrating and even blissful for me, an experience which is different from loving bliss. The experience of being in the hot pool is very varied, but intense and enlivening for many.

The neurophysiology of being in the pools, and moving, in particular, between the hot pool and cold plunge, is something I'd like to focus on further. What is this neurophysiology?

While the hot pool, and warm pool adjacent to it, were here when Ishvara bought the property in 1972, the cold plunge above it was created since that time. Both are near 'perfect' in their own ways, and it's these pools that seem to bring people back again and again., and give rise to so many unique aspects of Harbin's experience.

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